Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 336 (and a reprise of Opus 335):
Opus 336: (January 29, 2015). In the wake of the tragic killing of cartoonists in the Paris offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, we return to the subject with a post-mortem discussion of security issues the attack provokes and offensiveness in cartoons, the phoney prohibition against depicting Muhammad, alleged Islamophobia at Charlie Hebdo (including an analysis of the paper’s cover cartoons), a survey of cartoonists’ reactions to the murders (Robert Crumb, Keith Knight, NCS’s Tom Richmond, Mad’s John Ficarra, Daryl Cagle’s massive online exhibit, Arab-American editoonist Khalil Bendib and others) and reports tracing the evolution of the “survivors” issue of Charlie Hebdo. At the end, a bibliography of articles in Print on censorship and related matters by Michael Dooley. Here’s what’s here, in order—:
Offensiveness in Cartoons
Phoney Prohibition Against Depicting Muhammad
Alleged Islamophobia in Charlie Hebdo
Larry Flynt vs. Jerry Falwell
Analyzing Charlie Covers
Interior Charlie Pages
EDITOONISTS REACTIONS IN U.S. AND ELSEWERE
Khalil Bendib, Arab-American Cartoonist
Robert Crumb, “Cowardly Cartoonist”
John Ficarra, Editor of Mad
National Cartoonists Society Exhibit
NCS Prez Tom Richmond
Daryl Cagle Extensive Online Exhibit for Downloading
Future Self-censorship and External Pressures
Defend Freedom of Expression
Correction: Eye Witness Account
Tracing the Evolution of the Survivors Issue
Friday’s Editorial Meeting
Friday Evening Informal Staff Gathering: Cartoonists’ Reactions, History of Charlie
Monday and the Cover of the Survivors Issue
Bibliography of Print articles on censorship and related issues.
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The World in the Wake of the Paris Murders
THE KILLING of a dozen satirists at the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo the first week in January reverberated loudly throughout the world in the days that followed. Millions of people marched in protest through the streets of Paris led by political leaders from 40 countries, arms linked in solidarity. Thousands of rabid right anti-immigration advocates elsewhere rallied to protest the “Islamification” of Europe. In the Mideast, predictably, many Muslims (but not all) decried the publication of images of the Prophet Muhammad as “blasphemy”—punishable by death. In the squalid Muslim ghettos at the fringes of large French cities, Muslims feared fierce retaliation; mosques (and Jewish sites) were attacked. Cartoonists and journalists everywhere beat the drum for freedom of expression.
The extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and solidarity among ordinary French citizens and those of other countries encourages me to think that we may have reached the tipping point in our relations with Islamist Hooliganism. Even Muslim nations are saying they are fed up with the radical extremists that prey upon innocent, unarmed people in the name of Allah. Some of those nations are even saying that they want to cooperate with Western countries to develop networks for sharing intelligence. That may go further in formulating a defense (even an offense?) than we’ve been able to go before.
Two questions are currently preoccupying the gasbags in what they hope, for the sake of ratings and viewership, will be endless discussion: security and offensiveness in cartoons. Resolving each of these issues turns on questions of personal, individual liberty. How much liberty are we willing to give up in the name of enhanced security? How much freedom of expression are we willing to give up to appease fussy religious beliefs?
As I said last time, a proper war against so-called Muslim extremists would not give the extremists what they want. It would not limit or reduce freedom—even in the name of security. Instead, it would increase freedom. It would immediately do away with airport security; we would no longer have to remove our shoes in order to board an airplane.
By remaining free, we defeat the enemies of freedom—i.e., the radical Islamists, the Cutthroat CalipHATE and all its misbegotten ilk. Conversely, by beefing up security—we not only limit freedom: we admit to being fearful. And the radical Islamists win.
And they are already winning. We may kill a few Muslim Hooligans after they’ve slaughtered unarmed people in offices or malls, but the Hooligans are still free to pick the time and place of their assaults. In reports of the Paris violence (seeking, perhaps, to make the incident more horrific by increasing the body count), the total dead mounted from 12 at Charlie Hebdo’s office to 20 city-wide—including those killed at the kosher grocery, plus the three murdering Hooligan thugs.
But in Nigeria at virtually the same time, Boko Haram Hooligans were creating an apocalyptic horror by killing more than 2,000. This on the heels of the Hooligan attack on a school in Pakistan last month that produced 132 dead school children.
As long as radical Islamists can commit such atrocities at will, we are losing. This is the propitious moment for the National Rambo Association to step forward with a demand that we all be armed by government fiat. We can then shoot terrorists on sight: dressed always in black with black masks, they are easily identifiable.
Meanwhile, the demand for security whittles away at individual liberties. In France, pressure mounts for legislation akin to our “Patriot Act” which authorizes the government to pry into internet communications. It is not likely that freedom will prevail in the fashion I advocated a few sentences ago. Security will not relax: it will intensify. How can it not? The first demand of any citizenry of their government is for safety. No government can resist that demand and endure. And so we’ll see our freedom slowly erode over the coming years of our war with terrorism.
And that war is, indeed, going to take years. Perhaps the rest of this century. The root causes of the international hooliganism are economic, not religious (despite what the Hooligans want us to believe), and it will take generations to eradicate them. We must do no less than eliminate poverty in the world because poverty, with its abject present and hopeless future, nurtures the discontent that breaks out in hooliganism of the most brutal sort that we’ve been witnessing.
We are in for a long slog, and we must steel ourselves for it.
We may hope, however, that freedom of expression will somehow abide.
At first—way back in 2006 with the Danish Dozen—I was vaguely sympathetic with the Muslim point-of-view about depictions of Muhammad. The general notion is that depicting Muhammad may lead the simple-minded to worship his image instead of Allah. The dreaded idolatry dawns. And cartoons depicting Muhammad took this alleged “blasphemy” another step further: in the cartoons—because they are cartoons—the Prophet was being laughed at, mocked. For shame.
Still, it seemed a decent and respectful thing to do, to refrain from ridiculing Islam by cartooning the Prophet. In the current brouhaha, PBS’s “News Hour” said it wouldn’t show any of the gross Charlie Hebdo images because they are likely to be offensive to Muslims; so out of respect for that religion, the “News Hour” declined to show the images.
Thereby, the “News Hour” abdicated its journalistic responsibility—just as all American newspapers did in 2006 by declining to print any of the Danish Dozen. Had those images been made public, readers would realize just how small-minded some Islamist extremists are to take such excessive offense at these childish scrawls.
So how is journalism supposed to behave in future? Must every religion be shown this kind of deference? Will we give up public displays of the Christmas spirit—no shopping sprees, no Santa Clauses on street corners, no Christmas sale advertising in newspapers—because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in celebrating Christmas—and would therefore be offended by the spectacle of the Christmas Season with all its lights and tinsel frou-frou?
Ironically, the prohibition against images of Muhammad is not shared by all Muslims. Nor do all those who object do so as hysterically as the extremist Hooligans do. Some Muslims are upset but only mildly. And through history, the prohibition about Muhammad’s image has not been universally supported among Muslims. In fact, there are hundreds of images of the Prophet scattered through the centuries—in paintings in museums and in private dwellings.
And there are statues of Muhammad in public places. An 8-foot marble sculpture of the Prophet stood on the roof of a courthouse near Madison Square Park in Manhattan for more than 50 years until it was “quietly removed in 1955,” Rick Gladstone tells us at nytimes.com. “But a coalition of Muslim advocacy groups failed in a 1997 effort to seek the removal or alteration of a frieze containing a [presumed] likeness of Muhammad on the north wall of the Supreme Court’s main chamber. The Prophet is among 18 revered lawgivers decorating the Court’s interior” (among whom Moses is to be seen).
The customary Muslim stance has been, for centuries, that Islam discourages images of Muhammad—just as it frowns on all images of creatures that are presumed to have souls. But there was no outright ban until fairly recent times. (In fact, one online source I consulted said the ban originated in 2005 with the Danish Dozen. That recently.)
Sunni Muslims are more dedicated to prohibiting the images than Shiites, who, more or less, wink at offenses and let them be. So what’s a Westerner supposed to do?
Oddly, as a result of a perverse but accurate logic, the Muslim objection to images of Muhammad has managed to turn Islam’s rationale on its head. By objecting so strenuously to images of the Prophet, those images have ironically become a kind of deification of Muhammad. The very thing he wanted to avoid—worship of an image of himself—has come to pass.
And ironies abound. In the effort to ban Muhammad’s visage from all representation, the resulting publicity has given greater visibility to those offensive images than they might otherwise have had.
As a final irony, the strenuousness of the Muslim objection to images of the Prophet has assumed the character of a political movement. Islamist Hooligans seek to pit the East against the West: if they can prove that Westerners hate Islam, they’ll recruit vastly more young, dissatisfied men to their ranks. Thus, as politics replaces theology, the sacred becomes profane. And the profane is eligible for ridicule—and further profanation.
If images of Muhammad are now profane, then there is no sacred reason to avoid depicting him. He’s fair game.
But wait. How do we know these purported images of Muhammad are actually of the Prophet? Since he was never depicted while he was alive, none of the pictures that decorate even Muslim structures and texts are accurate. And if they are not accurate, authentic representations of Muhammad, they are not pictures of the Prophet. Hence, not even pictures of the Prophet are pictures of the Prophet. And so they cannot be prohibited, even in Islam.
Ah, yes—another irony, a colossal one.
Cartoonists haven’t, yet, much explored the security questions; but the issues of offensiveness and decorum—and freedom of expression—are being aired everywhere.
LOGIC ASIDE (where it usually resides), the images that Charlie Hebdo deploys in what Time calls its “lurid satire of sacred cows” have brought the issue of freedom of expression screaming to the forefront, at least for the last few weeks. (In the usual manner of a fickle press and its preoccupied readers, “Deflate-gate,” the scandal of footballs not robust enough for the Super Bowl playoffs, elbowed Charlie off the airways and the front pages after only about ten days; Obama’s State of the Union address couldn’t compete with deflated pigskins either.) Saith Time: “The West is forced to choose between the Muslim sensitivity to cartoon portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad and the secular value of unbridled free expression. Cower or offend: either way, the murderers win.”
We’ll doubtless do both, cower a little and offend a little, but the Hooligans still win.
The imagery of Charlie Hebdo’s covers and interior cartoons are without question offensive: they are deliberately designed to shock, to make people stop and gasp and, perhaps, think. Based upon the cover imagery, the paper is usually labeled Islamophobic, racist, sexist and a host of other bigotrists. ... For the Rest of this Report, Including Analysis of Charlie Hebdo’s Covers and Reactions of Cartoonists Worldwide, plus Articles That Trace the Evolution of the “Survivors” Issue of Charle Hebdo, Click Here if you are a member. If not...
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